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California prelates urge prayers, humanitarian aid for victims of fires

IMAGE: CNS photo/Terray Sylvester, Reuters

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CNS) -- By midday Nov. 16 firefighters had gained more ground in trying to contain the Camp Fire in Northern California, which is north of Sacramento and one of the deadliest blazes in the state.

The same day in Southern California, more residents displaced by Woolsey Fire near Los Angeles were being allowed to return to their homes. Both fires started Nov. 8, but authorities have not determined the cause.

Fueled by low humidity and strong winds, the Camp Fire has destroyed over 11,000 buildings across over 140,000 acres. The entire population of Paradise, about 30,000, were forced to evacuate Nov. 9; the town was destroyed. The death toll stands at 66 and at least 631 people are missing.

"The tremendous loss from the Camp Fire ravaging parts of the diocese is devastating," said Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento. "The families in Paradise and the surrounding communities affected by the fire can rely on the support of our prayers.

"We also pray for the brave men and women responding to this disaster and battling the fires," he added in a statement posted on the diocesan website, www.scd.org. "May all those who have died in this catastrophic inferno be granted eternal repose in the merciful hands of the Lord Jesus."

Bishop Soto was to celebrate Mass Nov. 18 at St. John the Baptist Parish in downtown Chico for all those affected by the Camp Fire. He especially invited the community of St. Thomas More Parish in Paradise; their church was in the direct line of fire.

Many of St. Thomas' parishioners have lost their homes. The Sacramento Diocese has confirmed that church and school buildings have survived the fire. The new rectory, old rectory and parish hall were destroyed.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Northern Valley Catholic Social Service were working with partner organizations on local relief and recovery efforts. Donations can be made through the Sacramento Diocese by visiting www.scd.org/donate (choose the Fire Assistance Fund).

In a Nov. 14 statement, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez asked all people of faith and goodwill to join him in offering prayers and support for everyone affected by the fires in Southern California.

"The devastation of the wildfires continues throughout our state. We need to keep praying for those who have lost their lives and their homes and livelihoods, and for all the men and women fighting the fires," said Archbishop Gomez.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has started a fund to help the victims of these fires. Donations can be made at www.archla.org/fires.

"These funds will assist families within our parish communities in their recovery efforts," he said.

The archdiocese of Los Angeles has been providing support to the communities affected by the fires through Catholic Charities of Los Angeles and local parishes and schools.

As of Nov. 16, these are the facts about each of the fires, according to Cal Fire and local officials:

-- Northern California: Camp Fire, Butte County: 142,000 acres burned; 45 percent contained; 63 fatalities confirmed; and 11,862 structures destroyed (including homes).

-- Southern California: Woolsey Fire, Los Angeles County, Ventura County: 98,362 acres burned; 69 percent contained; three fatalities confirmed; and 616 structures destroyed, 57,000 in danger.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Army of volunteers provides turkey, all the trimmings for those in need

IMAGE: CNS photo/Arlington Catholic Herald files

By Ann M. Augherton

ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) -- Picture the first Thanksgiving: a community coming together, one person bringing the fowl, another the bread, others sharing the fruits of their harvest, all gathering for a meal. The gratitude palpable for a plentiful harvest, for family and friends, for the opportunity to rest, reflect and break bread with others.

For the past 34 years, the Edward Douglass White Knights of Columbus Council in Arlington has hosted Thanksgiving for folks in the community who might need a little help or a little company.

Similar to an Amish barn-raising, the community comes together to provide turkey and all the trimmings, but with a side of organizing buses to pick up the dinner guests, gathering donated paper products and vegetables, and scheduling an army of volunteers to cook, carve and carry the meals to the homebound.

What started with a handful of turkeys and 200 recipients has grown to feeding 2,500 with any number of donated turkeys. Marijo Galvin, Thanksgiving coordinator with her husband, Thom, says "any number" because they never know how many turkeys will show up.

For their 11th year overseeing the effort, they expect about 200 turkeys -- fully cooked, unstuffed and at least 20 pounds -- to be dropped off at the council home in Arlington from Nov. 19 through Nov. 21. A team of carvers will pull the birds from the huge walk-in freezers and start their work in the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning.

Only between 200 and 300 diners will come to the council home for the afternoon meal. Hundreds of other meals will be delivered by a team of volunteers. Marijo said a former postal worker has arranged the deliveries by location to facilitate the process. The first delivery goes out at 9 a.m.

"We cover Meals on Wheels clients, Arlington Adult Services and several apartment complexes with low-income residents," Marijo told the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Arlington.

Runners, another vital team, will pick up the elderly or disabled and bring them to the council home for the big feast, often eating with them, and then driving them home a couple of hours later.

Marijo mentions some of the key players in the community who support this huge effort, including Bishop O'Connell High School in Arlington, which donates use of its school buses, and the Jhoon Rhee martial arts school, which frees up its vans, and other bus companies that bring guests from two locations in the Arlington Street People's Assistance Network and from a nearby neighborhood.

St. Agnes Church in Arlington is on pie duty this year. Ruth Foster, the volunteer coordinator or "Pie Lady," said she ordered 225 pie tins and an equal number of shallow and deep pie boxes. The tins have been sitting on a table in the narthex of the church waiting for volunteer bakers.

Her goal is to get at least 150 pies back, 120 earmarked for the Knights' Thanksgiving dinner and 30 for Christ House, an outreach for people in need.

When people tell her that they've never made a pie, she tells them to "go to the store, pick up the refrigerated dough, roll it out, follow the directions, make up the stuff, put it in the oven and wait until it comes out."

Ruth's favorite is pecan pie. Her secret? "The key to a pecan pie is the temperature at which you cook it. It's a longer process, slower, at a lower temperature." She likens the filling to a custard. "When the center sets up, it's done."

The night before Thanksgiving, Marijo, her husband and two other volunteers go to a local German bakery, Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe in Arlington, to pick up any leftovers, usually breads, pies and desserts. Marijo joked that she thinks the owner bakes too much so they have enough to donate to the Knights.

"Back in the day, the entire community jumped in and tried to do something," said Marijo. That's where the scene of that first Thanksgiving, legend or legit, calls to mind a spirit of giving and gratefulness.

Marijo said financial donations are also needed to offset the costs of the endeavor, which include the rental of food warmers, and the side dishes, aka the trimmings.

The day wraps up as the pie crumbs are swept from the floor about 6 p.m. Any food leftovers are shared with several local shelters.

Marijo is undaunted at the task ahead. "I love the people. I love talking to the people. They are grateful, but they don't understand how grateful I am to them for the joy the give me."

She added quickly, "It helps you remember how lucky you are."

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Augherton is managing editor of the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Arlington.

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Catholic, international aid agencies press for end of war in Yemen

IMAGE: CNS photo/Yahya Arhb, EPA

By Dale Gavlak

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic and international aid organizations are pressing for an end to Yemen's worsening war, where the United Nations says one child dies every 10 minutes.

David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Program, called Yemen "the world's worst humanitarian disaster in 100 years." Half of Yemen's 28 million people are on the brink of starvation and the country is suffering from the worst cholera epidemic in modern history.

"The humanitarian disaster in Yemen is of horrific proportions," Kevin Hartigan of Catholic Relief Services told Catholic News Service, describing the crisis erupting in the impoverished nation at the tip of the Arabian Peninsula which is embroiled in a nearly four-year-old conflict.

"More certainly needs to be done to assist a population that is on the brink of starvation, and we intend to expand our response with the generous support of Catholics in the United States," said Hartigan, the agency's regional director for Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia.

Meanwhile, CRS continues to support its partner, Islamic Relief of Yemen, while working to establish a presence in the country, Hartigan added. Its support has included funding and technical assistance in response to the cholera epidemic and providing emergency relief in the besieged humanitarian port city of Hodeida.

Recent fighting between Iranian-backed Houthi rebels occupying Hodeida and government militias supported by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates threatens to push the country into a full-blown famine. Up to 85 percent of food passes through the Hodeida port.

"Yemen has become a hell on earth for millions of children," said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF regional director for the Middle East and North Africa. More than 400,000 children are starving and another 1.5 million are acutely malnourished and need aid to survive, he said.

"Today every single boy, every single girl in Yemen is facing extremely dire needs," Cappelaere recounted after a visit to children in hospitals there earlier this month.

"We met with Adam, Abdulqudus, Sara, Randa and others. Each time I name them, I see the images clearly of them lying in their beds, Cappelaere recently told reporters. "Some of them (are) supported by their families. Some of them (are) just lying on their own, with hardly anybody to support them."

Aid workers report rising numbers of internally displaced Yemeni civilians. Often they live on breadcrumbs and leaves. Medics have said the number of deaths linked to food-related factors is spiraling.

"We see immense suffering in the faces of children whose young lives have been stunted by malnutrition, and the agony of their parents who can only watch their children waste away," said Giovanna Reda, head of Middle East humanitarian programs for CAFOD, the overseas aid agency of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales.

CAFOD was among nine agencies Nov. 14 calling on British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to do more to bring an immediate end to the conflict and to "urge parties to the conflict to end violations against civilians."

Hunt visited Saudi officials Nov.12 urging them not to risk a humanitarian disaster in pursuit of military victory. As many as 150 people had been killed in air raids on Hodeida in the previous 24 hours, according to news reports.

"A comprehensive cease-fire across the country is urgently needed now, to halt the suffering of millions of people," Reda told CNS.

"Humanitarian access is vital to reach vulnerable families on the brink of famine. ... Any disruption of (Hodeida) port's operation will severely affect our ability to get emergency aid to where it is needed most," Reda said.

Signatories to the appeal included CARE International UK, Christian Aid, International Rescue Committee and Norwegian Refugee Council.

Pope Francis repeatedly has urged the international community to make every effort to end the Yemeni crisis.

"I'm following with concern the dramatic fortune of the people of Yemen, now extreme following years of conflict," he said in June. "I call for the international community to not withhold efforts and to join all parties involved for negotiations, so the tragic humanitarian situation doesn't worsen even more."

Washington, however, continues to sell billions of dollars in weapons to Saudi Arabia. Until early November, the U.S. also helped to refuel Saudi planes used in bombing raids in Yemen. The U.S. and Great Britain pressed Saudi Arabia and its allies to end the war against the Houthi rebels Nov. 12.

The U.N. reported Oct. 24 that at least 6,660 Yemeni civilians have been killed and 10,560 injured in the war. The fighting and a partial blockade of the Hodeida port have left 22 million people in need of humanitarian aid. The cholera outbreak has affected 1.1 million people.

 

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University helps former foster youth, homeless find a new beginning

IMAGE: CNS photo/Brian Barbosa, courtesy University of San Diego

By Denis Grasska

SAN DIEGO (CNS) -- The University of San Diego has a message for students who were once in the foster care system, homeless or at risk for homelessness.

"We recognize that things have happened to you in your past," said Cynthia Avery, the Catholic university's assistant vice president for student life, "but this is a time to rewrite your story."

And the university is ready to assist with those rewrites.

Established in 2012, the Torero Renaissance Scholars program offers comprehensive support specifically to students from the foster care system and those at risk for homelessness. Many public universities have established similar programs in recent years, but USD is among the few Catholic or independent universities to offer one.

Benefits of the program include access to academic tutoring and financial and career counseling; opportunities for internships and mentorships; one or two scheduled social events each month; emergency financial assistance when a car breaks down, a personal laptop computer is lost, or some other unanticipated challenge arises; and regular access to the campus food bank and supply pantry.

A grant from the In-N-Out Burger Foundation has made it possible for Torero Renaissance Scholars to receive financial compensation for summer internships with community partners. One student has been doing scientific research for two years at Birch Aquarium at Scripps. Another student has been interning with New Americans Museum, helping to collect oral histories from fellow immigrants.

Potential Torero Renaissance Scholars are typically identified from their financial aid applications and encouraged by the TRS Support Team to sign up for the program.

However, Avery also has received referrals from members of the University of San Diego community, who have informed her about students who were found to be living out of their cars or sleeping in one of the gardens on campus. She has worked to find accommodations for these students.

Avery, who also serves as a court-appointed special advocate, brought her passion for foster youth to campus when she arrived 10 years ago. She quickly discovered that the university didn't have any programs specifically tailored to this demographic and, recognizing the need for such outreach, laid the groundwork for what would become the Torero Renaissance Scholars program.

"The statistics " are pretty grim for students who emancipate from a foster care system," Avery told The Southern Cross, newspaper of the Diocese of San Diego.

According to the nonprofit Foster Care for Success in 2014, 84 percent of foster teens want to attend college, yet only 20 percent manage to do so and of those only 3 percent go on to earn a bachelor's degree.

These students lack a stable learning environment, Avery said, and many have attended more than two high schools and sometimes as many as four.

The Torero Renaissance Scholars program's name references the university's mascot, the Torero (Spanish for "bullfighter"), but also alludes to the historical epoch that followed the Dark Ages.

Like the Renaissance period, Avery said, the program represents "a new beginning, a rebirth, a time of enlightenment" for its participants.

Since its launch, nearly all of the program's 20-plus past participants have gone on to receive diplomas from USD. The only exceptions have been the few who have taken medical leaves of absence.

Of the 14 students who are currently enrolled, Avery said, about three-quarters of them are on the honor roll, which means they have a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Monserrat Lopez, a former Torero Renaissance Scholar, graduated in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in music and a minor in business.

The 23-year-old, who now works for the brokerage firm LPL Financial, is grateful for the sense of solidarity and the practical help afforded by the program.

"It was good to be around other people who were in similar situations," she said, recalling her first meeting with her fellow Torero Renaissance Scholars.

Lopez had been homeless during her high school years. Her father "disappeared for a couple of months" and, because the rent went unpaid, she and her brother had to find someplace else to live.

At first, each sibling found shelter at a friend's home, sleeping on the couch. But after about three months, they moved into a shelter for homeless teens in downtown San Diego. She continued to live there until her high school graduation and, after starting at the University of San Diego, she moved into campus housing.

"All of these students belong here as members of our community and (they) make us better," Avery said. "These students are some of the most resilient individuals you've ever met. Their stories are incredible."

Maria Coleman was homeless when she found out she had been accepted to the university. Her face still lights up as she recalls seeing her status change from "applicant" to "student" on her laptop computer.

It hasn't been easy for the 38-year-old, a survivor of domestic violence and mother of two teenagers. But with support from the Torero program, she's on a path to graduate with a bachelor's degree in political science in 2020.

In addition to living on campus and interning at the New Americans Museum, she's doing another internship this fall at U.S. Rep. Susan Davis' San Diego office and belongs to the rowing team.

"If it wasn't for the support from the TRS program I don't know where I'd be," said Coleman. She appreciates meeting regularly with other students in the program and they share experiences. "There's a sense that we're in it together and we will make it," she said.

For former foster student Alejandra Lopez-Cuellar, who graduated in 2016, also praises the program, and she especially appreciated that university administrators understood the challenges she was facing.

"Not having to constantly explain my situation" was a big help, said Lopez-Cuellar, who was able to live on campus the summer after her first year at USD.

Wearing the TRS stole at graduation that symbolized how she'd persevered and overcome the odds "was a really proud moment," she recalled.

Over the past two years, she has served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member in several locations around the country.

"I have learned that I enjoy working with other people and helping them reach their goals, personal or professional," she said.

This fall, she began overseeing the volunteer program for the New York Immigration Coalition in New York City.

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Grasska is assistant editor of The Southern Cross, newspaper of the Diocese of San Diego.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope meets Israeli president at the Vatican

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis welcomed Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to the Vatican Nov. 15 for a private discussion that included the importance of building greater trust between Israelis and Palestinians.

During their 35-minute meeting, they spoke about the importance of mutual trust in negotiations "so as to reach an accord respecting the legitimate aspirations of both peoples," the Vatican said in a statement.

"The hope was expressed that suitable agreements may be reached" also between Israeli authorities and local Catholic communities "in relation to some issues of common interest," it said, adding that the Holy See and the State of Israel would soon celebrate the 25th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations.

Aided by interpreters, the pope and president spoke about "the political and social situation in the region, marked by different conflicts and the consequent humanitarian crises. In this context, the parties highlighted the importance of dialogue between the various religious communities in order to guarantee peaceful coexistence and stability," the statement said.

"Mention was made of the importance of building greater mutual trust in view of the resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians so as to reach an accord respecting the legitimate aspirations of both peoples, and of the Jerusalem question, in its religious and human dimension for Jews, Christians and Muslims, as well as the importance of safeguarding its identity and vocation as City of Peace."

Exchanging gifts, Rivlin gave Pope Francis a small bas relief replicating the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.

According to pool reporters, the president told the pope that the image showed how one could divide the various parts of the city, but also unite it in new ways. The walled Old City is divided into the Jewish quarter, the Armenian quarter, the Christian quarter and the Muslim quarter.

"Jerusalem has been a holy city for the three monotheistic religions for centuries. For the Jewish people, #Jerusalem has been the spiritual center since the days of the First Temple over 3,000 years ago, but it is also a microcosm of our ability to live together," the president tweeted later, adding a photo of the two of them speaking during the gift exchange.

The Vatican consistently has called for a special status for Jerusalem, particularly its Old City, in order to protect and guarantee access to the holy sites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

During the meeting, Pope Francis gave Rivlin a large medallion, which the pope described as representing wheat being able to grow in the desert. Pool reporters said the pope told the president he hoped this desert would be transformed from a desert of animosity into a land of friendship.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Rivlin thanked the pope for supporting the fight against anti-Semitism.

"Your absolute condemnation of acts of anti-Semitism and your definition of such acts as anti-Christian are a significant step in the ongoing fight to stamp it out," Rivlin said.

Members of Rivlin's entourage said they also talked about the controversy between Jerusalem's city government and the Catholic Church concerning city property taxes.

In early February, the Jerusalem Municipality announced it would begin collecting $186.4 million in property taxes from some 887 church-owned properties that were not houses of prayer. Since then, the Israeli government set up a negotiating team to resolve the dispute.

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Update: Bishops overwhelmingly approve pastoral against racism

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Mark Pattison

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops overwhelmingly approved a pastoral letter against racism Nov. 14 during their fall general meeting at Baltimore.

The document, "Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love -- A Pastoral Letter Against Racism," passed 241-3 with one abstention. It required a two-thirds vote by all bishops, or 183 votes, for passage.

"Despite many promising strides made in our country, racism still infects our nation," the pastoral letter says. "Racist acts are sinful because they violate justice. They reveal a failure to acknowledge the human dignity of the persons offended, to recognize them as the neighbors Christ calls us to love," it adds.

Bishops speaking on the pastoral gave clear consent to the letter's message.

"This statement is very important and very timely," said Bishop John E. Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky. He appreciated that the letter took note of the racism suffered by African-Americans and Native Americans, "two pieces of our national history that we have not reconciled."

"This will be a great, fruitful document for discussion," said Bishop Barry C. Knestout of Richmond, Virginia, in whose diocese the violence-laden "Unite the Right" rally was held last year. Bishop Knestout added the diocese has already conducted listening sessions on racism.

Bishop Robert J. Baker of Birmingham, Alabama, what he called "ground zero for the civil rights movement," said the pastoral's message is needed, as the civil rights movement "began 60 years ago and we're still working on achieving the goals in this document."

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, said he was grateful for the pastoral's declaration that "an attack against the dignity of the human person is an attack the dignity of life itself."

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix said the letter will be welcome among Native Americans, who populate 11 missions in the diocese, African-Americans in Arizona -- "I think we were the last of the 50 states to be part of the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday," he noted -- and Hispanics, who make up 80 percent of all diocesan Catholics under age 20.

"This is very important for our people and our youth to know the history of racism," he added.

Bishop Shelton T. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, said an electronic copy of "Open Wide Our Hearts" would be posted "somewhat immediately," with a print version available around Thanksgiving.

"Also, there will be resources available immediately" now that the pastoral letter has been approved, including Catholic school resources for kindergarten through 12th grade, added the bishop, who also is chair of the bishops' Subcommittee on African American Affairs.

"'Open Wide Our Hearts' conveys the bishops' grave concern about the rise of racist attitudes in society," Bishop Fabre said Nov. 13, when the pastoral was put on the floor of the bishops' meeting. It also "offers practical suggestions for individuals, families and communities," he said.

"Every racist act -- every such comment, every joke, every disparaging look as a reaction to the color of skin, ethnicity or place of origin -- is a failure to acknowledge another person as a brother or sister, created in the image of God," it adds.

"Racial profiling frequently targets Hispanics for selective immigration enforcement practices, and African-Americans, for suspected criminal activity. There is also the growing fear and harassment of persons from majority Muslim countries. Extreme nationalist ideologies are feeding the American public discourse with xenophobic rhetoric that instigates fear against foreigners, immigrants and refugees."

"Personal sin is freely chosen," a notion that would seem to include racism, said retired Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces, New Mexico, Nov. 13, but "social sin is collective blindness. There is sin as deed and sin as illness. It's a pervasive illness that runs through a culture." Bishop Fabre responded that the proposed letter refers to institutional and structural racism.

An amendment from Bishop Ramirez to include this language in the pastoral was accepted by the bishops' Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, which guided the document's preparation.

Bishop Curtis J. Guillory of Beaumont, Texas, said Nov. 13 the pastoral "gives us a wonderful opportunity to educate, to convert," adding that, given recent incidents, the document should give "consideration to our Jewish brothers and sisters." Bishop Fabre replied that while anti-Semitism is mentioned in the document, future materials will focus on anti-Semitism.

A proposed amendment to the pastoral to include the Confederate battle flag in the pastoral alongside nooses and swastikas as symbols of hatred was rejected by the committee.

"Nooses and swastikas are widely recognized signs of hatred, the committee commented, but "while for many the Confederate flag is also a sign of hatred and segregation, some still claim it as a sign of heritage."

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Cardinal says he leaves USCCB assembly more hopeful than when it started

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Dennis Sadowski

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said he was leaving the bishops' fall general assembly Nov. 14 more hopeful than when the meeting began two days earlier.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said in remarks closing the assembly that his hope was primarily grounded in Christ as well as realizing that the body of bishops was on the road to implementing protocols to boost the accountability of bishops to laypeople and survivors of clergy sex abuse.

As the meeting started, Cardinal DiNardo expressed disappointment because the Vatican had asked that no vote be taken on several protocols governing bishops that he had hoped would be accepted during the three-day meeting.

The instruction came from the Congregation for Bishops, citing the upcoming February meeting of the presidents of the bishops' conferences around the world to address clergy sex abuse and to ensure that the proposals were in line with canon law.

The cardinal also pledged to the pope the "loyalty and devotion" of the conference "in these difficult days."

"I am sure that, under the leadership of Pope Francis, the conversation that the global church will have in February will help us eradicate the evil of sexual abuse from our church," Cardinal DiNardo said. "It will make our local efforts more global and the global perspective will help us here."

In addition, the cardinal said, the hours of conversation involving bishops, eparchs, clergy abuse survivors and invited speakers throughout the assembly "have given me direction and consensus" and will serve as a "springboard for action."

As the USCCB developed a plan to respond to difficult news regarding clergy abuse over the summer, Cardinal DiNardo said conference leadership set three goals, among them fully investigating the circumstances surrounding reports that Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick had allegedly abused minors and seminarians.

Other goals, he said, included making it easier to report abuse and misconduct by bishops and developing means whereby bishops could be held more accountable for their actions and ensuring any plan was independent of the bishops, duly authorized by the church and had substantial lay involvement.

He said the assembly showed that the USCCB was on "course to accomplish these goals."

Progress also was made to establish a way for people to report complaints against bishops through a third-party hotline and that proposals for a national lay commission and a national network involving existing diocesan review boards will be developed, he said.

The cardinal also expressed hope that standards of accountability for bishops and a protocol for bishops removed from ministry also would be completed.

"We leave this place committed to taking the strongest possible actions at the earliest possible moment," Cardinal DiNardo said. "We will do so in communion with the universal church. Moving forward in concert with the church around the world will make the church in the United States stronger and will make the global church stronger."

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

 

 

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Update: Bishops vote to let Vatican inquiry proceed without commenting

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Dennis Sadowski

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops Nov. 14 defeated a resolution to encourage the Vatican to release all documents related to the investigation of allegations of misconduct by Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick.

The resolution went down by a vote of 137-83 at the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore.

Bishop Earl A. Boyea Jr. of Lansing, Michigan, proposed the resolution. After a 30-minute discussion, the bishops decided to let the Vatican's investigation proceed without urging any further action.

The resolution was introduced Nov. 14 after three days of discussion during the fall meeting that focused on the response of the full body of bishops to the clergy abuse allegations within the U.S. church.

The bishops have been under pressure from parishioners and priests in their dioceses to take some type of public action to show they are serious about their response to clergy sex abuse.

The vote came after a plan to adopt a series of more forceful actions designed to increase the accountability of bishops that had to be put aside at the request of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, opened the assembly with news of Vatican notification and that votes on the proposals would not be taken during the meeting. He said the letter asked that any action on the proposed steps be delayed until after the upcoming February meeting of the presidents of bishops' conferences from around the world called by Pope Francis to address clergy sex abuse and the need to ensure that the proposals are in line with canon law.

USCCB leadership in September developed proposals for standards of episcopal accountability and the formation of a special commission for review of complaints against bishops for violations of the standards. Bishops discussed particular aspects of the proposals as well as amendments to them.

After its introduction, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, read from an Oct. 6 Vatican communique announcing the Holy See's plan to investigate the circumstances surrounding Archbishop McCarrick's rise from a priest in Archdiocese of New York to become a member of the College of Cardinals while he served as archbishop of Washington.

Reports emerged in June and July that Archbishop McCarrick allegedly sexually abused minors decades ago and seminarians more recently children. Pope Francis accepted Archbishop McCarrick's resignation from the College of Cardinals in July and assigned him to a life or prayer and penance. The former cardinal has denied the allegations.

Momentum seemed to build throughout the final two days of conference for the assembly to take some sort of action as the bishops had earlier intended. By midday Nov. 14 calls from bishops to vote on at least limited versions of the proposals became more numerous and vocal.

Several bishops said in public discussions throughout the assembly that Catholics in parishes in their dioceses had expected the conference to take serious steps to address the abuse crisis and that Vatican's letter on delaying votes led to rising anger among some parishioners that another opportunity to act was being bypassed.

Bishop Peter F. Christensen of Boise, Idaho, was among the bishops who encouraged the assembly to take some action to assure the faithful that they wanted to remedy the rift that has developed between parishioners and the U.S. hierarchy.

He also said that action was necessary because not stepping up would be harmful to promulgating the pastoral letter on racism and the advancement of the sainthood cause of Sister Thea Bowman -- both were approved Nov. 14 -- as people would dismiss whatever the bishops had to say.

The most pointed comments in a second day of discussions on possible actions were aimed at Archbishop McCarrick. In comments critical of a fellow prelate that are almost never heard in public, several bishops called for the USCCB as a body to take public action against fallen archbishop.

Bishop Liam S. Cary of Baker, Oregon, charged that Archbishop McCarrick's alleged actions had damaged "eucharistic unity and apostolic integrity."

"Archbishop McCarrick has grievously offended the faithful Catholics of the United States, to say nothing of the multiple victims he has offended. He's offended the priests who have served faithfully. But he has offended us as bishops, as bishops, in a unique and important way," Bishop Cary said.

In a call to the assembly to reaffirm its support for Pope Francis, Bishop Michael F. Olson of Fort Worth, Texas, said that the conference could not remain silent in response to charges by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, former papal nuncio to the U.S., that the pope had known about Archbishop McCarrick's alleged abuse and failed to act.

"The Holy Father requires our collaboration," Bishop Olson said. "We have cited the Vigano letter, some of us more formally than others. Yet not one of us, not this body, have repudiated his call for the resignation of the chair of Peter. Not one of us."

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

 

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Jesuit superior says Father Arrupe's sainthood cause may open in February

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jesuit Father B. Reynolds

By Cindy Wooden

ROME (CNS) -- Plans are underway for a solemn opening in February of the sainthood cause of Father Pedro Arrupe, superior general of the Jesuits from 1965 to 1983.

Jesuit Father Arturo Sosa, the current superior, informed Jesuits Nov. 14 that the cause "has been set in motion in the Vicariate of Rome, the place of his death" and that "from now on, therefore, he is considered a 'Servant of God.'"

In July, during a meeting in Spain, Father Sosa told Jesuits and lay collaborators that the serious work of preparation had begun. That preparation included compiling all of Father Arrupe's writings and seeking eyewitnesses who could attest to his holiness.

More than 100 witnesses -- mainly from Spain, Japan and Italy -- are expected to testify, Father Sosa said. In addition, two commissions already have begun reviewing all Father Arrupe's published works and "many unpublished documents written by or about Father Arrupe and the socio-ecclesial context in which he lived."

Father Sosa, in his November letter, said that assuming the Vatican and the bishops in and around Rome pose no objections, "the session formally opening the cause will take place at the Basilica of St. John Lateran" in Rome Feb. 5, 2019, the 28th anniversary of Father Arrupe's death.

"Eloquent and even moving postulatory letters received from all over the world confirm that his reputation for holiness is recognized in different sectors of the church," Father Sosa said. "This reputation of holiness is spontaneous, continuous and enduring."

Father Arrupe's work to help Jesuits rediscover the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola and "the method of personal discernment and discernment in common" helped the Jesuits renew their life, "their consecration and vows, community and mission," Father Sosa said.

 

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Update: Bishops' abuse response must trump all other issues, advisers say

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Carol Zimmermann

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- A group that has been advising the U.S. bishops for 50 years on multiple issues chose to speak to the bishops in Baltimore Nov. 13 on just one issue: the clergy sexual abuse crisis itself and ways to move forward from it.

"We are facing painful times as a church," Father David Whitestone, chair of the bishops' National Advisory Council, told the bishops at their fall general assembly. This sense weighed heavily upon the council members during their September gathering, he noted.

"The depth of anger, pain and disappointment expressed by members of the NAC cannot begin to be expressed adequately in words," he said.

The priest, who is pastor of St. Leo the Great in Fairfax, Virginia, in the Arlington Diocese, noted that progress has been made since the bishops developed the 2002 "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," but he stressed that more needs to be done. "We can never become complacent. We must recommit to the ongoing care of all victims in their healing."

"Wounds inflicted, even many years ago, are no less real because of the passing of time nor are the demands of justice less urgent," he said.

Father Whitestone said the depth of the anger expressed by NAC members in the current church climate is "also an expression of our love for the church."

He said the abuse crisis has done great harm to the faith of many Catholics, particularly as it has come to light that the crisis is more than just sexual abuse committed by priests but predatory behavior of bishops against seminarians. The priest said Catholics should demand more of the clergy, deacons, priests and bishops than that they simply not break civil laws.

The response to this crisis needs to be more than issuing statements of regret and even establishing new mechanisms and procedures, he said, stressing instead that there should be a "new and radical recommitment to personal and institutional purification" and true repentance of past sins and facing consequences of these sins.

Members of the NAC did not vote on any other issues facing bishops as way of saying: "There is no single issue more pressing as a church than the crisis we are now facing."

All 35 voting members of the committee attending the September meeting agreed that the current scandal is of such urgency and importance that it must be the highest priory for the bishops' fall assembly to begin to restore trust and credibility.

Retired Army Col. Anita Raines, an NAC board member, said the group approved of some action items the bishops were only discussing at the assembly and now not voting on as per a request from the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops.

In particular, the advisory group supports the development of third-party system that would obtain confidential reports of abuse by bishops, Raines said, as well as the development of a code of conduct for bishops; an audit of U.S. seminaries to investigate possible patterns of misuse of power; establishment of special commission for review of complaints against bishops; and an independent investigation of allegations against Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, former cardinal-archbishop of Washington.

Father Whitestone stressed that while the advisory group recognizes the significance of this scandal in the church it also knows that the church is "more than this crisis" and has a mission to continue to preach the Gospel.

He said Catholics have gone through a range of emotions as this crisis has unfolded but those committed to the church want to help it move forward.

"The bishops needn't bear the burden of setting the course of the way forward alone." He said the lay faithful want to help and urged the bishops to let them.

"We as a church will move forward," he added.

The speakers received an extended standing ovation from the bishops.

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

 

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.